When rapper J. Cole sits in the front row to watch you play, you have to put on a show.
And N.C. State’s star freshman Dennis Smith Jr. certainly did that. He recorded the first triple-double of his college career on Wednesday night against Virginia Tech. It was also only the second triple-double in school history as N.C. State beat the Hokies 104-78.
Smith finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
Smith was one rebound away from the feat for quite some time during the game. It looked as if he didn’t know he was just one rebound away. But the crowd knew it. Fans on television knew it, too, including Julius Hodge, the only other player to have a triple-double in a game for N.C. State. He tweeted “Sub him out Gott!!!! #myrecord.” Hodge did it against N.C. A&T in 2002.
With 4 minutes and 21 seconds left in the game, Virginia Tech sophomore guard Ahmed Hill shot a 3-pointer that bounced high off the rim. Smith jumped up and with one hand grabbed the rebound. The crowd went wild, including J. Cole.
The triple-double was impressive for Smith, who is considered a one-and-done player. He had one double-double in the 14 games he had played this season. And his previous career high in rebounds was 7.
“He’s such an electric player and tonight he did just about everything,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said Wednesday night. “And did it within the framework of everything we’re trying to do. He’s learning all of that and he’s such a good player.”
Gottfried said he wasn’t sure whether he’s had another player to record a triple-double in a game.
Smith was aggressive on the boards and got into the paint with ease at times. He blew past defenders and often there was no one there to challenge his layups. When the defenders did come to help, he just found the open man.
Smith is averaging 19.6 points and 6.5 assists per game.
“I’ve seen him play a lot,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “Obviously never coached against him. ... He’s deserving of all the hype.”
Virginia Tech came into the game ranked No. 21 in the country. The Hokies beat Duke last Saturday 89-75, and some thought the game would be trouble for N.C. State. But Smith and his teammates had their way with Virginia Tech’s defense.
Terry Henderson and Abdul-Malik Abu scored 22 and 20 points respectively. As a team the Wolfpack shot 64.1 percent from the floor.
“I think we can be better than that,” Smith said. “I believe we can achieve the highest goal in college basketball, so that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Smith laughed when he was informed of Hodge’s tweet during the game. He had one word to describe how he felt about being one of two to hold a triple-double at the school.
“Blessed,” Smith said. “I’ve put in a lot of work. I’m blessed. I just thank God I can come out and play.”
After Smith walked into the locker room, his teammates could be heard from outside yelling for him.
Wednesday night, he was that good.